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10 Ways to Prevent Your Child from Choking

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Choking is the fourth leading cause of accidental death in young children. While it's incredibly scary, it is largely preventable just by being safe and smart. We've gather ten expert tips to help you keep your little ones safe from choking. But also please check with your pediatrician or local CPR organization to fully understand preventing choking in children. This isn't medical advice, only information.

1. Don't Introduce Solids Too Early

a mom feeding her baby

Starting solid foods is a major milestone for a baby—just make sure you don’t rush it. According to the The Mayo Clinic, purees can be offered starting between four and six months old, but don't try foods that need to be chewed until at least eight months old. When baby is old enough to start chewing his food, make sure that it is chopped finely to avoid it getting lodged in his throat.

2. Supervise Mealtime

a bay in a high chair eating

Even if you've made sure that your hungry little one only has age-appropriate tidbits to nosh on, accidents can happen. Make sure that your baby always sits upright in her highchair while eating, and that any small objects on counters or tables are out of reach of small hands. Choking can happen quickly, so never leave your baby unattended with snacks or meals.

3. Avoid High-Risk Foods

a pile of plastic drinking straws

While it's tempting to give your little guy bites of whatever you're eating, try not to give in. Many foods that we can handle with ease are potential choking hazards for little ones still learning to chew and swallow. 

The New York Department of Health lists hot dogs, popcorn, pretzel nuggets, fish with bones, whole grapes, cheese cubes, ice cubes, peanut butter, dried fruits, nuts, hard candies, and any food that clumps among the most hazardous foods for young children. A child's trachea (wind pipe) is approximately the size of a drinking straw—anything that is the shape and size of a straw is to be avoided.

4. Don't Rush at Mealtime

a young family having dinner

Mealtime can be a particularly hectic part of the day—try to take a few deep breaths before sitting down to dinner so that you can relax and model proper eating habits. While it may feel necessary to shovel food in as fast as you can, your little one picks up on the rushing. If he rushes, too, he could get too much food in his mouth, which is potentially dangerous.

5. Don't Allow Running with Food

a young girl running in a park

Giggling, breathing hard, or an unexpected fall can all happen when your child is running. Any strange disruption of breathing can quickly cause your child to inhale any food she has in her mouth, so don't allow it. It will be a great opportunity for you to realize that you finally sound exactly like your mother when you yell, "No running with food in your mouth!!"

6. Only Allow Age-Appropriate Toys

a young baby on a play mat

Before buying any toys, or opening new gifts for play, check the suggested age range on the packaging. The age range not only lets you know that the toy is of the appropriate size and use for your child, but also means there will not be any small parts that could be choking hazards for young children.

7. Regularly Check Old Toys for Damage or Loose Parts

old toys

Even if you do only allow age-appropriate toys in your home, you still need to watch for damaged pieces or loose parts. A stuffed animal or soft toy can become dangerous if your little one bites or tears a piece off while mouthing it. Plastic toys can break if accidentally stepped on leaving cracked pieces. Anything that is broken, torn, or cracked should be thrown out or repaired before allowing your child to play with it again.

8. Keep Refrigerator Magnets Out of Reach

some white notes handing on a fridge

Refrigerator magnets are fascinating objects for small hands—and anything in your baby's hands will eventually wind up in his mouth. Beyond the fact that magnets represent a real choking hazard, magnets can be particularly destructive to the GI tract if swallowed. Being vigilant about keeping magnets out of reach is important for your child's safety.

9. Teach Older Children to Clean Up

an older boy who has put his toys away neatly

If you have older children in the house, teach them how important it is to pick their toys up and put them away when they're done playing with them. Small game pieces or toy parts are alluring prizes for very young children to put in their mouths. Explaining that everyone in the house needs to share in the responsibility of keeping babies safe is a big lesson that needs to be learned by everyone.

10. Be Prepared for Emergencies

a boy wearing an oxygen mask

Call your local hospital or search online to find classes for infant CPR and choking first aid. Also keep phone numbers for police, fire department, doctors, hospitals, and poison control next to the phone and stored in your contacts. Saving precious seconds by knowing how to respond in an emergency is important and could save a life.

 
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